An Italian Problem

An Italian Problem

Guys, I don’t like my saddle.

Though it fits Simon relatively well, I’ve never taken to my Prestige Roma Jump saddle. On the aesthetic side, I am not a huge fan of the leather. Even after having it for a year and a half, the leather still is just okay at best. Granted, I’m not the world’s best cleaner/oiler but this thing remains slick and stiff. It doesn’t like to soak conditioner in despite my best efforts and it scratches super easily.

Riding wise, it puts me in the worst chair seat. At first I thought it was my shoddy equitation, but when my friend rode it in earlier this summer she remarked that the balance is really far back. When I’m trotting and trying to dressagz, I’m constantly struggling against where the saddle naturally wants to put me. While I love my leg position over fences with this, on the flat it’s downright frustrating.

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Does anyone else ever feel the same way with flatting vs jumping in their saddle? I’m a hunter/jumper rider… it’s not like I’m going to want to swap tack every time I pop over fences.

When shit hit the fan earlier this summer, I started arbitrarily picking things to look forward to in the future that might make me happy. Some of them (like my amazing warmblood hunter weanling) aren’t so realistic, but a saddle has stayed at the top of the list.

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My house is currently under contract, and when discussing financial things with my Dad he said, “Well if it sells for over X amount you should buy a new saddle or something!”

I immediately thought, “You have no idea how much saddles cost… but I’m glad to have your verbal approval because I was already planning on buying one.” So now my hunt begins.

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I’ve never been able to look for a saddle without a time crunch or budget crisis, so the prospect of all the options is a bit exciting. My goal is to get a rep to help me find something used in good condition, but honestly the most important thing is fitting my creature (a hard fit) while also fitting myself (a hard fit). Starting with CWD next week, but I’m curious about all your thoughts when it comes to looking for the perfect saddle. What brands did you enjoy working with? Who has the most bang for their buck? Who’s going to load me up with extra freebies so I feel justified for the obscene amount of money I just laid down?

This is saddle shopping people. This is serious!

47 thoughts on “An Italian Problem

    1. Ditto! Love my Antares. Also have loved my Barnsby Whitaker as well as my Tad Coffin! My advice is get video of you riding in the saddles, makes all the difference to see how you look and how your horse moves. Sometimes it feels different than it looks!

  1. I like Kelly, our CWD rep. Sam the Devoucoux rep is great too. And Robin the Delgrange rep. I like all 3 brands, all are slightly different, some better for certain people than others are. You know I have a great affinity for all things French. People like to hate on them for the foam panels but my CWD has been a great saddle for me and for several horses in a row now. I encourage you to sit in as many as possible and see what your personal preference is.

    1. Foam panels have been good to me in the past too. Since I’m buying this for me + nerd horse, the ability to have it fit “all the things” is a little less important to me…which is why I’ve known saddle fitters to prefer wool. Kelly is actually the one coming out next week, and I think I need to round up someone from County too.

      1. Of all of the saddles I’ve had county was by far the worst. I don’t know if my area just has the worst rep ever buy Houston had problem after problem. I also steer clear of Devoucoux just given the customer service issues I had. CWD has been my favorite by far. I’ve also liked the Voltaire I have sat in but for more money and less quality I wasn’t sold. Plus they wouldn’t send a rep out to me and no way am I spending 5k+ on a saddle without a fitting.

        I got stirrup leathers with my Cwd but I know ppl that have gotten bridles and breastplates or births. Devoucoux gave me a girth but I basically said I wouldn’t buy it if they didn’t. It was returned with the dud saddle though.

        Email me if you want more info on what I’ve heard price wise in my endeavors. 🙂

  2. My entire barn rides in County saddles…. I love mine!! I have the bull leather upgrade it is grippy soft like calfskin but wears much better. It also made a world of difference to my super sensitive TB, and I have gotten it reflocked a few times to fit him as his back changed and he grew muscle.

    When the County rep came I must have rode in 20 difference seat and flap combinations, and when I knew what I wanted she found me a demo saddle, which county shipped to me for me to try for a week.

    Bonus- they often have demo saddle sales 😉

    1. County, County, County. Comfy, quality, character. I’ve had two. With the wool, you can change the fit based on how your horse changes (muscle, age). My previous Stabilizer was great on my TB from age 10 to age 22. I can’t say enough good things about this brand.

    2. I have to say I am very green on the whole “saddle shopping” endeavor. I have literally never had a budget over $400 and I’ve bought 3 saddles my entire life.

      That being said, I am in the market and have tried a lot of different saddles. Currently obsessed with CWD or Voltaire. Amazing quality and actually fit my freak legs.

      That being said, they are pricey (at least to me).

      I also have to second County. I have a county dressage saddle and LOVE it. Not sure how their jumping saddles are, but I recommend county all the way.

      I shall be living vicariously through your saddle hunting!

  3. hahaha I have NO idea, but best of luck! I’ve been kind of dressage saddle shopping but I have no money, so I just have lots of saved ads for “later.” 🙂

  4. I love my Delgrange but I bought it used of equine.com, so I didn’t use a rep. I have heard great things about Devoucoux but they aren’t right for my conformation.

    I am also lusting after a new saddle right now. It’s going to take me a few months to save for it. But literally every time I want to buy something, whether it’s a sweater or a latte, I stop and say “SADDLE.” Sometimes out loud. I get weird looks at Starbucks.

  5. I have to put in a good word for Sommers here. The dressage saddles are SUPER and I was very impressed with the jumping saddle I tried earlier this year. They’re all wool flocked too, for easy adjustment.

    Don’t be afraid to try brands you haven’t heard much about, either. I love my Ainsley, but it isn’t a hugely popular brand!

  6. I’ve always loved County and they tend to fit high withered TB’s well. If I could get a new saddle it would be one of theirs.

  7. I’ve been saddle shopping for a year in anticipation of buying my first brand new for me and pony saddle (ever) for Christmas. I’m going with County. I can PM you our rep – she’s AMAZING. Really took the time to explain things and she’s coming out to our barn next month to do a saddle fit clinic and will be measuring pony and I then. I’m hoping to buy a new jump saddle and find a used dressage that she thinks will work for us. I particularly liked that their jump saddles let me feel like I retained all the good things I’d figured out in my dressage saddle.

  8. My best experience was going through a fine used saddle re-seller. We’re lucky in Massachusetts that there are at least 2 repuatable re-sellers that will come out to your location with a large range of really nice high-end brands and styles.

    I would highly suggest you try that, if you have the option. That way you get to sit in a number of brands and styles, on your horse, one right after another. It was very clear what would work and what would not, within minutes. You get the added bonus that the rep is not trying to push a particular brand on you or your horse.

    I didn’t have good experiences going through saddle company reps. Even though I stated up front that I would not be buying a brand new custom saddle, and was only interested in trade-ins, the reps immediately started speaking custom on the spot.

    I liked being able to sit in a number of different brands, and was surprised by what worked and what didn’t. I really, really, really love the Devoucoux Biarritz, but did not like the Oldara at all. I liked the Tad Coffin, Boca did not. I absolutely do not like CWDs in the slightest. I love the Butet I ended up with, had never had any exposure to them and almost didn’t even try it.

    The best part is that you can get a really nice used high end saddle in the $2-$3k range, instead of spending $5k+.

    1. PS – I am also a H/J rider (I think? Primarily?) but I feel comfortable doing anything in my Butet. Flatting? Check. Over fences? Check? Cross Country? Check. Trailriding? Check. I would even sort cows in that thing!

    2. Shauna, I’m in MA too. Who are the resellers you recommend? Im going through the process now. Thanks

  9. Can’t remember what her name is, but the only thing I have against County (whom I love) is the rep who came out one day to Amy’s about half an hour late and seemed new due to a lack of professionalism. Just my 2 cents!

  10. Add me to the county lovers. I just went to a big expo thing and checked out a lot of the brands in person. Liked one of the CWDs, really liked a Schleese jumper saddle, but loved the county booth . For the record, I currently ride in a newer stubben, which isn’t uber trendy but might be worth a look 🙂

  11. One of our boarders went round and round trying to find something she liked that fit her horse. After a couple of failed purchases she ordered an Adam Ellis through Capstone and has been very happy with it. It’s a beautiful saddle and looks very comfortable.

    1. I can personally attest to Carol at Capstone and my Adam Ellis (I have the Chloe). I absolutely love it. And now there are tons of customization options that weren’t avail when I bought. I would never hesitate to work with Carol and to buy another AE, or to recommend both.

  12. Hastilow rep for life right here. If you’re looking for a sticky saddle with unbelievably soft leather, completely adjustable to fit your horse…well, you can’t go wrong with them. They are classy, beautiful, hold up exceptionally well, and the workmanship is fantastic. Very similar to Albions, and I think Black Countrys as well. The only problem is they are a small, relatively unknown English brand, so people pass them over like they have some sort of disease. I’ve never felt more comfortable in any saddle – even my Albion dressage, which I am contemplating selling for a Hastilow dressage.

  13. You know what I’m going to say. But I will add that this is what really sells it for me:
    – The extras, like the rideable waterproof saddle cover and the little leather hat stamped with CWD for the cantle. If there is even a chance of sprinkles during my ride, it’s a huge load off my mind to have it.
    – The fact that with the SE02 (deep) seat and my stirrups down seven (half) holes from my jumping position, it functions like a Dressage saddle. Seriously. I am considering not even getting a Dressage saddle for a while, it’s that workable.
    – The technology behind it. Mary being a rep sold me on them for life. No other company has an R&D department even close to what CWD has, and the technology behind those saddles is incredible.

    So…yeah. For life. Haha.

  14. No real advice–both my saddles are used, off the rack, consignment types of decidedly non-French origin. That said, I’ve ridden in a handful of French saddles and LOVE them. 🙂 Best of luck in your search and definitely keep us posted.

  15. I actually ride in a discontinued model Hermes. I know, I know… But honestly it’s the most wonderful saddle I’ve ever sat in. EVER. It’s balance is perfect for me. The first time I jumped in it, I suddenly had an eye. It was like magic. MAGIC! It’s called the Essentielle, and they are floating around the used french saddle sites from time to time. And I think Beval has had some too in the past. Sadly though, no freebies… It came with a cover, made of linen… that’s dry clean only. So there’s that?
    I will admit though, that the Butet is very similar, and much easier to come by. My trainer rides in a Butet, and I’ve borrowed hers when I go visit in FL. I didn’t fight with it at all, and I’m super picky.
    That’s just what’s worked for me! Good luck in your search!

  16. Voltaire. Amazing.

    I got a steal of the century off a FB group for an ’11 model. It has all the bells and whistles (second skin option, pro panel) and it’s in buffalo! I freaking love it. Puts me in a great position, fits anything I put it on, very grippy! My friend borrowed it while she was getting her new Voltaire made, and I got to meet the rep for our area (who may be the rep in your area. Not sure) He was able to tell me a lot of the saddle from the serial number.
    While I did buy it from a FB group so all I got was the cover which is really nice and fleece lined. I did order stirrup leathers from Voltaire and they sent me a free hat!

  17. I never realized how luck I was when buying a saddle until I entered Blogland. I knew relatively nothing when I ordered my Antares. I didn’t bother the rep much, was never in contact with him again after the one time he came out. Everything fit and worked right out of the box and all these years later I’m still as happy as day one (less so with the stirrup leathers but those are like not consequential when it comes down to saddles).

    I wish you the best of luck!

  18. Sad that you don’t like the Roma, because I really like my Meredith! But I do hear you with issues of the chair-seat thing. I have similar issues on the flat sometimes, but it doesn’t bother me that much.

  19. OOOOOHHHH SADDLES.
    I’m of the mind that unless you’re a pro and there’s a huge benefit to signing with a certain company – I’ve always found different brands have suited each of my horses differently and I like the flexibility. Pia fit Prestige best, but I couldn’t adjust that saddle (even with wool) well for Prairie, and finding panels that WOULD work for her back proved very difficult. We landed with CWD and while, personally I currently prefer riding in Voltaires, CWD was the only company that worked out for Prair’s extra shapely back. My original rep didn’t really do us any favors, but I will say that the company as a whole worked HARD to make sure my saddle ended up being wonderful. The only downside is that I’m CERTAIN it won’t work for whatever horse I ride next so I’ll be back at square one 🙁

  20. I’m going to throw out the Loxley by Bliss of London brand! I loved the demo I was sent, and it’s a fully custom saddle. Base price is less than $2500 and the free customizations include piping color, leather color, forward/long/standard flaps. Of course if you want to add a colored or bling cantle, they can do that for a fee. It’s also wool flocked. Mine comes sometime next week and I can’t wait! They even made a special tree for my mare with shorter points to allow the flap to be a bit flexible over her shoulders. I can’t wait to do a review.

    Bummer about your Prestige, I almost bought one.

    1. A good friend of mine got a Loxley made and she adores it. She got some of the bells and whistles, namely contrast piping and Croc cantel. She has an ottb and was having a hard time finding a saddle to fit off the rack. She hasn’t a single complaint or regret about buying the Loxley

      1. Oh, awesome, Aoife! I did the contrast welling too and really thought hard about adding the bling to the cantle bit ultimately decided not to in case I ever sell it. I was in the same situation with my OTTB. Downhill build and dips behind the withers is tough! Glad your friend is liking the Loxley, I can’t wait for mine to get here.

  21. I had the opposite problem with my Butet. Loved flatting in it, but felt like jumping, it let me get a little too ahead of myself.

    I sold it through Cori at High End Used Saddles, and couldn’t have been more pleased. My saddle left for trial the day it arrived and was sold within the week. The 25% commission was worth it, in my opinion. I also wouldn’t hesitate to purchase through her, or any of the other reputable high end saddle sellers out there.

    I am a huge fan of used anything, because I hate breaking in tack. So I ended up with a used Antares and I have been super happy with it. Found it on Craigslist of all places, and for a steal.

    Good luck and enjoy sshopping!

  22. Saddle shopping seems like it should be fun but I actually hated the whole process. I originally had a small budget and a hard to fit horse so finding non custom that worked was nearly impossible. I ended up going with Antares which you will have to pry from my cold dead hands ;). That being said, sit in as many as you can back to back to get a feel for what you do and don’t like. Try out barn mates saddles if you can. I personally loved the CWD rep but all of their saddles don’t feel right to me (something about their twist hits me weird in the crotch).

    Honestly that saddle I looked at that got you the most bang for you me buck was Black Country. They let you do some really cool customization for very little extra (if at all I can’t remember). Saddle is made in England so not as fancy as the French saddles, but very nice for the price (when I was looking new was under $3k).

    As for freebies, don’t be afraid to ask the rep for them bc they often won’t just give them away When I was getting my saddle I got the calf leather upgrade thrown in for half price and a set of free leathers and conditioner.

    Good luck!

  23. This is serious. This is Sparta!

    I hate saddle shopping. I actually love my prestige, but it’s a 15 year old model so it’s not comparable to the new ones. I need a new dressage saddle and I just gave up because shopping was driving me insane. I’m envious of you getting reps out. We have country rep in this area and that’s it. Since I don’t want a County there’s no rep who can help me. I really want to try CWDs and other brands. Part of my excitement over being at Rolex was saddles.

  24. good luck! working with a rep really seems to be a great way to reduce potential headaches (trying to find saddles on my own has been awful, as you know…). also, i know exactly what you mean about fighting against a saddle. i just assumed my crappy eq in the wintec was bc, well, crappy eq. but then i saw pics of me jumping bareback and was like, ‘hey my leg CAN actually go where it’s supposed to. whadya know!’ a saddle that fits YOU will be so worth it! 🙂

  25. I have only recently bought a new (to me) saddle back in May. Online, halfway across the country, a few pictures and a limited description, but it fits my mares and me so what is there to complain about? Oh right? NOTHING! lol

    I bought a Smith Worthington. Got it for a helluva steal, shipping included, just in time for Mothers Day, lol. The price was good enough that if it didn’t work out, I could flip it for a healthy profit. No harm, no foul, no love lost. It’s nice enough for schooling and showing (if we ever get there), flat work or over fences. I don’t ride every day, I don’t even ride other people’s horses, so to me there’s no reason to drop a wad of cash on a saddle, or any other tack for that matter.

    Saddles are a personal thing and we all have our preferences. I have an older Crosby close contact for sale if anyone is interested. It’s the Sovereign model, 17.5″ seat, plain flap, minimal to no knee rolls. I hate to see it sit, but it’s too wide for my ultra narrow mare.

  26. Antares, in buffalo leather, with wool flocking.

    Pricey, but it’s worth every penny. The leather is like Velcro for your butt, and it wears like iron!

  27. CWD!! But seriously, I know the feeling of fighting against a saddle. My custom made for someone else Antares always put me in a chair seat, but I thought it was just one of my riding flaws….until I rode in my trainer’s CWD. I ordered one when I was in Wellington 2 years ago and I LOVE it! My position is 100% better, no more chair seat at all. I love jumping and flatting in it and it rides well with short or long stirrups. Plus… the CWD rep in VA is french and DREAMY 😉 their customer service has been great and when I was at a horse show in VA right after I bought it, the rep took it overnight and conditioned it for free. Highly recommend CWD.

  28. Antares did not work on my slightly downhill girl. Tried everyone in our barn. Liked a friend’s Devocoux. Loved my trainers old Butet best. Just puts you in the perfect spot. Bought my CWD, it’s cushy and pretty but does chair seat me a bit. Voltaire rep was very snooty French and pushy but very knowledgeable, I just didn’t find the quality worth the price, although I really like whatever that newest model was.

  29. Ohhhh saddle shopping. One of the sites I loved the best was Trumbull Mountain. Yes, they are in VT, BUT, they have one of the best trial policies out there, and they usually have a whole boatload of different brands to try. I also really liked Maryland Tack Exchange.

    LOVE buffalo leather, highly recommend it, it is grippy and wonderful. I rode in a County Stabilizer on several horses for years. LOVED that saddle, kinda sorta wish I would have kept it, but it helped finance my next one. Good news is you should get a decent price for your Roma.

    I also loved my Black Country, but it was definitely more of a cross-country/foxhunting saddle than a H/J saddle.

    If you think you will end up with wool, and want a ‘not-associated-with-a-brand’ saddle fitter, I highly recommend Tess Wheat. I can PM you her contact info.

  30. I initially set out to purchase a used French saddle last winter. I ended up buying a brand new (albeit not custom) Antares from Tom at EquiVenture. He often has his trailer at shows in Katy. I LOVE my Antares. LOVE LOVE LOVE it. The leather is amazing. The fit is delightful for me and my horse. I can’t say enough good things about Tom. He is very knowledgeable and helpful and stuck with me through a couple months of incessant questions. I am about to start shopping for a second saddle, one for fox hunting and riding baby horses and will def contact him again.
    I will say that what I know about CWD is not customer service related as much as quality. I know a grand prix rider (jumping) who weighs less than 120 lb and had not one, but two stirrup bars break on 2 different saddles. I would venture to guess that there was a period of time when they were having quality issues due to volume and that may not be an issue now, but that particular barn had 3 different saddles have that problem so they switched to Antares.
    My horsey besty shows hunters and has a Devoucoux and a Tad Coffin. The Devoucoux fits her warmblood/tb cross best and the Tad Coffin fits her OTTB best. I’m pretty sure she got both from Tom at EquiVenture and both were used.
    Have fun shopping! And I don’t know why an amazing hunter weanling should to be a dream and not a reality. Mine turns 4 this spring! 😉

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